Your Sundance Excuses

Posted by on February 14, 2016 at 6:56 pm :: No Comments

The Sundance Film Festival, which takes place in Utah every January, draws around 45,000 attendees from dozens of countries. Jason and I have been joining the other 15,000 local goers for almost a decade now. It’s such a unique, and conveniently close, experience why would any Utah resident with a love for cinema not go? We’ve heard a number of reasons from acquaintances through the years and now you get to hear them too. (Lucky you!)

Weak Excuse for Skipping Sundance #1: It’s impossible to get tickets.

While going to Sundance isn’t as simple as heading over to the neighborhood movie theater, it’s easier than impossible. Plus, one ticket prerequisite was removed this year. In the past, residents had to register in the fall to be eligible to get tickets in December. This time, that step was eliminated. We only had to get online at a specific time and wait in an electronic queue for an hour and a half to purchase tickets and then go to Salt Lake City during a particular slot to pick them up. So, yes it requires some effort but it’s not climbing Everest. Besides, all the nonnatives have to acquire flights, pay for outrageously expensive hotels, etc. so stop whining.

Hint to our friends: Jason and I have performed all of the ticket acquiring tasks for our pals attending Sundance for many years now. Traditionally, the gratitude for such services has been dismally underwhelming and, consequently, we may not continue to be so kind. Still, you could probably convince us to get tickets for you because we are suckers.

Weak Excuse for Skipping Sundance #2: You have to arrive at screenings early.

You do have to arrive 45 minutes early to every show if you want to be guaranteed a seat. This time, we discovered that coming an hour early actually procures a much better spot but waiting at least 45 minutes is really nonnegotiable. What? You can’t handle sitting around for 45 minutes reading a book or chatting with friends? Come on, you’ve waited longer to get the latest iPhone and an iPhone doesn’t come with Viggo Mortensen. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Viggo and most of the rest of the Captain Fantastic cast came to our screening.

Viggo and most of the rest of the Captain Fantastic cast came to our screening.

Weak Excuse for Skipping Sundance #3: Tickets are way too expensive.

Folks, they only cost about $20. While that is double what you’d pay to see a regular movie, does a regular movie come with Viggo Mortensen? That’s what I thought.

Weak Excuse for Skipping Sundance #4: There are too many film options. Picking between them is too hard.

Yes, it’s true; the Sundance Film Festival is a little like a cinematic version of Russian roulette. Without the opinions of friends or critics to rely on, you don’t know if you are going to get banged up at a screening or not. The uncertainty sure is exciting though.

Sundance may sound like a hassle. It is. However, all the bother is definitely worth it, as was proven again by the incredible shows and Q&As we caught this year.

Love and Friendship, our first Sundance flick of 2016, is based on Jane Austen’s Lady Susan epistolary novel. It was quite clever and full of laughs. Plus, there was a Q&A with the director, music director, and producers at the end.

Directly following Love and Friendship, we got in line again and waited for our next movie, Captain Fantastic, a superb show featuring Viggo Mortensen, one of my favorite actors. Viggo showed up for the screening along with the majority of the cast and my heart nearly stopped.

It's hard to get good photos in dark theaters but a bad picture of Sonita is better than none at all.

It’s hard to get good photos in dark theaters but a bad picture of Sonita is better than none at all.

A few days later, we watched Sonita, a documentary about an Afghan girl who, after fleeing to Iran as a refugee, dreamt of becoming a rapper. It unexpectedly tumbles into the common Afghan practice of selling young girls as brides with or without their consent. This tradition, in which families treat their females with no more consideration than horses being auctioned to the highest bidder, was heartbreaking to witness. The film was terrific and won the festival’s Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award in the World Cinema Documentary category. It was followed by a Q&A with the director and Sonita herself.

Our next show made me cry a lot. I had a headache the rest of the night from my waterworks during Gleason, a documentary about Steve Gleason, a former NFL defensive back that was diagnosed with ALS at the age of 34. Since Jason and I have had some personal experience with ALS, a disease that steadily steals all voluntary muscle control, this film was difficult but rewarding to watch. It had a Q&A afterward in which we got to meet Steve’s courageous wife.

Our last show, Sophie and the Rising Sun, was also excellent. It takes place in the Deep South at the outbreak of World War II. The culture of the small town it portrays is full of interwoven layers of bigotry that are both intriguing and appalling. It was our only film not followed by a Q&A.

We definitely won Sundance’s cinematic roulette this time. That doesn’t always happen but if every Sundance show was breathtakingly amazing, discovering masterpieces wouldn’t be so exciting now would it? If you’re a local and you love movies, why the heck haven’t you been to Sundance?

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